Best Cheap Digital Photo Frames
- Published on
- By Raechel Conover
Digital photo frames are the best way to move pictures off your camera or out of the computer and display them for the enjoyment of family and friends. But digital photo frames weren't always so popular. When they first hit the market, many experts and consumers scoffed at the idea that they could be attractive for home use. But designers managed to marry new technology to traditional frame design to produce digital frames that look like they belong in your home. And consumers have found that cheap digital photo frames provide hours of low-cost entertainment.
Cheap Digital Photo Frames Buying Guide
The array of choices on cheap digital photo frames can seem daunting, with sizes ranging from 1.5 inches (for keychain models) to TV-size frames measuring 25 inches or more. Some frames come with clock and calendar functions, remote controls, and built-in speakers. But take note: These special features can bump up the price. Once you start shopping, don't be shocked to see digital photo frames going for $200 or more.
But if you've set your sights on a cheap digital photo frame, there's reason to smile: You can find digital frames for prices as low as $30 to $80 that offer some of the same sought-after features and high-quality performance as pricier models. Plus, you'll also find digital photo keychains -- a popular novelty gift for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list -- going for $20 or less.
The most important features to look for in cheap digital photo frames are the resolution (anything above 640x480 is best for a 7-inch frame), a 4:3 aspect ratio to avoid picture distortion, compatibility with numerous file formats, internal memory of 128MB or higher, the option to add external memory, and a lengthy warranty. Of course, extras like remote control, slide show capability, and clock/alarm or clock/calendar functions are also impressive, but they aren't necessary and may boost the price tag.
Our top choices for cheap digital photo frames include three models: the Pandigital PAN7000DW 7-Inch Digital Photo Frame (starting at $60), which supports image, video, and music formats; the highly rated and easy-to-use Sony 7" Digital Photo Frame DPF-D710 (starting at $67); and the Kodak EasyShare P750 7-inch Digital Picture Frame (starting at $77), a simple frame with loads of memory. One model that doesn't meet users' expectations is the Aluratek ADMPF108F 8-Inch Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame (starting at $49), which has generated numerous complaints about its difficult software, impossible-to-follow instructions, and, in some cases, a lifespan of just a few months.
We also researched cheap digital keychain photo frames whose prices are far lower than full-size digital photo frames -- think $10 to $20 at the cheap end and $50 at the high end. The only real difference we found between the cheap digital keychain photo frames and the more expensive ones is the memory capacity. These are novelty items and aren't known for their superior technical specs or picture quality. In fact, after scouring numerous user reviews, we determined that there are only two important features: the internal memory and the battery run time.
We also found that manufacturers of digital keychain photo frames refer to resolution as "high" or "low" instead of assigning numbers, that aspect ratio isn't discussed at all, and that there's no option for external memory. Of the cheap models we looked at, we found the Tao Digital Keychain, model numbers 80009 to 80016, (starting at $10) to be the most appealing choice, largely due to its 16MB memory and three to four hours of continuous run time. On the other hand, the Shift3 Digital Photo Keychain (starting at $15) has an onboard memory of just 8MB and garners numerous complaints from users about a battery that doesn't hold a charge and other operating issues.
If a cheap digital photo frame fits your budget, keep in mind that you may not be able to score a well-known brand name or a model with all the high-tech options. Never mind. A cheap digital photo frame will showcase good-looking photos over a long period of time.
Digital Frames Reviews
According to digital photo frames reviews, the high resolution featured in our top picks ensure clear images and viewing pleasure. The digital frames on our list are all 7-inch models and support a variety of popular file formats. They're generally user-friendly, but digital photo frames reviews note that some digital frames may present a bit of a challenge to folks who aren't particularly tech-savvy. Consumers' digital photo frames reviews also note appreciation for frills, such as a timer and remote control, that show up in some low-cost digital frames.
Digital Photo Frames Resolution.Resolution is an issue that surfaces in any discussion of technology products with screens, including computer monitors, TVs, and DVD or Blu-ray players. So it is with digital photo frames, where the higher the number of pixels in the display, the clearer and sharper the framed picture will be. In the world of cheap digital picture frames, size also matters: The larger the display area, the higher the resolution needed to keep the picture crisp. For example, the resolution suitable for a 7-inch frame (the size refers to a frame's width) will not produce the same sharp results on a 14-inch or 20-inch frame. If you're shopping for a frame between seven and nine inches -- the most commonly purchased size -- don't settle for a resolution lower than 640x480.Our three top picks all prove that good resolution doesn't have to be a budget buster. Both the Pandigital PAN7000DW (starting at $60) and Kodak EasyShare P750 (starting at $77) feature an 800x600 resolution, and the Sony DPF-D710 (starting at $67) has a resolution of 800x480. In fact, digital frames reviews at B&H give the Sony DPF-D710 a perfect rating, noting that the frame sports a high quality, high-resolution picture. Digital frames reviews of the Kodak EasyShare P750 posted at Best Buy say photos look professional in this high-resolution frame. The Pandigital PAN7000DW likewise impresses consumers with its non-grainy picture clarity, according to digital frames reviews on Amazon, especially in light of the frame's low price.
Some low-cost digital picture frames, such as the Digital Foci Image Moments 6 Photo Frame IMT-063 (starting at $59), actually focus on resolution as a marketing gambit. For instance, the 640x480 resolution on this 5.7-inch model is denser than some larger, top-selling digital frames. Users commenting in Digital Picture Frame Review are impressed with the sharpness, contrast, and vibrancy of the colors in this relatively small frame.
Digital Photo Frames Aspect Ratio.The aspect ratio refers to the horizontal and vertical dimensions of your pictures. Experts say a ratio of 4:3 displays most images at their best on digital photo frames regardless whether the picture is landscape- or portrait-oriented. The auto-aspect setting on most compact (aka point-and-shoot) digital cameras is 4:3, so images from these cameras display well -- without distortion or cropping -- on digital frames with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The more complex digital SLRs (single lens reflex cameras) typically shoot with an aspect ratio of 3:2, and images taken with these cameras display with far less distortion on a frame with a 4:3 aspect ratio than on a frame with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the other common setting.Many lower-price digital photo frames, including two of our top picks -- the Pandigital PAN7000DW and Kodak EasyShare -- use the 4:3 aspect ratio as a standard setting. Others feature an aspect ratio of 16:9 or above, which produces the increasingly popular widescreen effect. Unfortunately, if you shoot photos in a non-widescreen format, such as 4:3 or 3:2, a widescreen display stretches and distorts the images to fill the space. This is fortunately not the case with one of our preferred models, the Sony DPF-D710, which has an aspect ratio of 16:10. A digital frames review by experts at Top Ten Reviews says the Sony DPF-D710 is a good basic digital picture frame that scores bonus points for its automatic orientation sensor, which adjusts images to portrait or landscape depending on what's needed and adds thin black bars to the top and bottom of the screen to provide a non-distorted widescreen effect for any image shot in a 4:3 or 3:2 format.
Digital Frame Memory
Digital picture frames can do so much more than simply display a single picture. Some can produce a slide show of many pictures to musical accompaniment. Other models can zoom in on a picture or transition from one picture to the next with special effects. Some can also show movies in addition to still shots. The functionalities offered by any particular digital frame depend on the file formats it supports.
Because you probably want to maximize compatibility between your digital picture frame and your other electronic gear, be sure to check which file formats the frame supports before buying it. Compact digital cameras produce pictures in JPEG (the most common file format), BMP, GIF, TIFF, RAW, or PNG. The most common audio file formats are MP3, WAV, and WMA, and movie file formats include AVI, DIVX, WMA, MOV, and MPEG. Both the Pandigital PAN7000DW and Coby 8-Inch Photo Frame with Multimedia Playback DP870 (starting at $60) support a range of picture, audio, and video formats. The Coby DP870 is particularly recognized in digital picture frame reviews on Amazon for its exceptional ability to serve as an MP3 player as well as a photo frame. If you only plan to use a digital frame to display still photos, expansive file format support may not be a deal breaker for you, and a frame that supports JPEG, like the Kodak EasyShare P750, should work just fine. For more still-shot options, the Sony DPF-D710 supports JPEG file formats as well as TIFF, BMP, and RAW images.
Digital Frame Memory.Digital frames come with a certain amount of built-in memory so you don't have to attach peripherals, such as a memory card or flash drive. The size (resolution) of the files and the digital frame's memory determine the number of images you can display at any given time. A model like the Sony DPF-D710 with 128MB of memory can hold up to 100 medium- to high-resolution JPEGs just fine, and some cheap digital picture frames feature much more: The Digital Foci IMT-063, for example, comes with 450MB internal memory, and the Kodak EasyShare P750 features a whopping 2GB, while the Pandigital PAN7000DW boasts 1GB of memory.Some inexpensive digital picture frames, like the Coby DP870, don't have any internal memory. In situations like this, you store photos on a flash drive or memory card that's inserted into a port on the side or back of the frame. Some consumers consider a lack of internal memory an advantage, preferring to organize and group pictures on different peripherals they can switch out for particular audiences or occasions. But a digital picture frame review of the Coby DP870 at Top Ten Reviews says the zero internal memory in a digital frame is a drawback. Most users, however, apparently don't consider this a problem worthy of commenting on at all, and their digital picture frame reviews on Amazon give the Coby DP870 a fairly high rating.
But even cheap digital picture frames with substantial internal memory may not hold all the photos you want to display. Fortunately, extending a frame's capacity with an external memory card or USB flash drive is often possible. If you already have memory cards or flash drives for your computer or digital camera, it's a good idea to buy a cheap digital picture frame that supports that same standard. Quite a few cheap digital picture frames have very robust external memory supports and are compatible with an array of the most common card and drive formats and/or have multiple ports or card slots. One of our good choices, the Sony DPF-D710, makes up for its 128MB internal memory by supporting the most common peripheral memory formats with a USB port and a memory card slot, as do both the Kodak EasyShare P750, the Pandigital PAN7000DW, and the Aluratek ADMPF108F.
Digital Picture Frames Features
The more expensive wireless digital picture frames let you transfer files from a PC, Mac, smartphone, or camera without having to bother with attachments and cables. Other wireless digital photo frames let you email photos directly to the frame and get updates on news, weather, and sports. These and other features, such as phone-charging outlets and picture-editing software, don't affect the quality of the picture display and usually knock the frame out of the Cheapism price range.
Still, you'll find some cheap models equipped with extra features. The Pandigital PAN7000DW, for instance, comes with a remote control that earns high marks in digital frames reviews on Amazon. This frame also lets users create slide shows, set a timer, and use the frame as a clock, calendar, and alarm clock. One reviewer especially likes the easy-to-use remote control and says the timer option is a plus when giving this frame to an older relative. (Tip: Set the timer so the gift recipient doesn't have to remember to turn on the frame).
The budget-priced Sony DPF-D710 functions as a clock and/or calendar and comes with a timer and remote control for the frame's varied functions. According to digital frames reviews on Best Buy, shoppers particularly like the slide show feature with its creative transitioning effects and the ability to adjust the time between photos. Users also appreciate the option to create multiple slide shows and then choose which to present to that day's audience. The Kodak EasyShare P750 also wins rave notices at Best Buy for similar extra functionalities.
Digital Picture Frames Ease of Use.While you won't need an engineering degree to figure out how to use a low-cost digital picture frame, managing your pictures can be very frustrating if the frame supports only one or two formats that happen to be incompatible with your digital camera, computer, memory cards, or flash drives. But for ease of use, the Kodak EasyShare P750 is certainly well named. This model wins high praise from consumers posting digital picture frame reviews on Amazon for its straight-out-of-the-box operation. The EasyShare P750 supports just a few image formats, and with no involved set up, you plug it into an electric outlet, pop in your memory card, and you're set. One user's review reports that it needed just a quick 30 seconds to upload 129 photos.Users' experiences with the Pandigital PAN7000DW are mixed, according to reviews at Amazon. Several say the directions are a bit tricky to understand unless you're tech-savvy (if you are, you might consider setting it up yourself before passing it along to someone on your holiday gift list). On the plus side, notes The Tech Check, it's compatible with numerous file formats, including music and video. That review also mentions Bluetooth capability, but Digital Frame Reviewer points out that you need a separate adapter to wirelessly transfer pictures from a smartphone or camera.
The Aluratek ADMPF108F (starting at $49), on the other hand, barely registers with consumers, whose reviews on Amazon refer to it as very user-unfriendly due to directions that are hard to decipher and the length of time it takes to upload images (eight hours in one case). In digital picture frames reviews on Newegg, consumers gripe that some computers don't recognize the Aluratek ADMPF108F's software, while others say the frame doesn't remember changes users make when trying to format pictures. For example, one user tried to rotate pictures to the upright position and the digital frame didn't get the message.
Digital Picture Frames Durability.How well do cheap digital picture frames stand the test of time? That can be determined by both the manufacturer's warranty and user reviews. Both the Sony DPF-D710 and the Kodak EasyShare P750 carry a one-year manufacturer's warranty, while the Aluratek ADMPF108F is only under warranty for 120 days. Purchasers of this model may have thought the wide range of supported file formats, video and audio capabilities, high internal memory, and remote control included with the frame were worth the price, but several reviews on Amazon and Newegg report that the frame stopped working after just a month or two. While the Pandigital PAN7000DW doesn't carry a warranty of any sort, experts at Digital Frame Reviewer don't seem to find this a problem, saying that the company has a record of producing cheap digital picture frames of high caliber quality and design.
Digital Keychain Photo Frame
Digital keychain photo frames are mostly very affordable, ranging in price from $10 to $20, with a few topping out about $50. But these novelty items don't have a lot of the technical specs their full-size digital photo frame counterparts carry. For example, aspect ratio isn't even a factor with cheap digital keychain photo frames, and when referring to resolution, most manufacturers simply mention whether their cheap digital keychain photo frame has "high" or "low" resolution without offering anything more specific. These tiny photo frames typically only support image files and are usually limited to the most common JPEG file format.
During our research, we found a lack of expert reviews as well as limited user reviews for this product. It may be that digital keychain photo frames may be too small and too low- priced to warrant significant time reviewing them.
That said, the two features that do seem to matter to users who do bother to write reviews are internal memory capacity -- the bigger, the better -- and battery life, in this case, the longer the better. (There's no external memory option with digital keychain photo frames.) The Tao Digital Keychain (starting at $10) stands out when it comes to both of these features. It holds up to 100 pictures in its 16MB memory, keeps a charge for three to four hours of continuous use, and comes with a one-year warranty. It garners many positive comments in digital keychain photo frames reviews on Amazon, where shoppers say pictures loaded to this cheap digital keychain photo frame look clear and crisp, uploading is a snap, and it makes the perfect gift for those people-who-have-everything. On the other hand, the Shift3 Digital Photo Keychain (starting at $15) has an internal memory of only 8MB, which is the equivalent of about 60 pictures. Numerous users at both Amazon and Walgreens complain in digital keychain photo frames reviews about this key chain. Most reviewers call it junk and say it either won't charge or, if it does charge, it won't hold the charge at all; nor is it compatible with a PC so you can't upload pictures. One user notes that while his computer recognized the software, it took so long to upload the photos, the computer actually gave up and shut the program down before the pictures arrived.